September 27, 2022
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This 12 months’s fall semester started simply as U.S. Forces made their final withdrawal from Kabul. Freshman college students ended their second day of courses on August 26, when a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. personnel at Kabul’s airport. The operation quickly morphed into the morbid anticlimax of a battle most People ignored, forsaking each U.S. residents and Afghans dreading the identical destiny. For a second, the withdrawal left hundreds of thousands of People questioning how the world’s best energy might convey twenty years of battle to such an ignominious finish, and what that finish would possibly portend for U.S. management sooner or later?

These questions lingered within the background, as Hillsdale’s freshman course, Western Heritage, introduced us to the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 B.C.E.) in opposition to the Seleucids below Antiochus IV Epiphanes. To a veteran, the story reads like a melancholy prophecy of U.S. challenges and errors in America’s longest battle. The story of the Maccabees gives the beginnings of an evidence for the 9/11 era’s collective dismay.

When Alexander the Nice died in 323 B.C.E., his empire fractured into rival kingdoms administered by the heirs of his generals. Seleucus I Nicator took management of the area that features fashionable Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and components of Afghanistan and Turkey. The Seleucids unfold Greek language, political establishments, and navy group throughout what turned recognized to historians because the Hellenistic period.

On the broad panorama of historical historical past, the Seleucid Empire was typical and relatively benign. The Seleucids primarily allowed native populations to protect their ancestral customs, each civic and spiritual. Previous to 180 B.C.E., Jerusalem was a semi-autonomous area ruled by a number one household (the Oniads), which held the high-priesthood at Jerusalem. Antiochus IV Epiphanes modified that coverage in Judaea round 167 B.C.E. in a sequence of actions that the Jewish sources keep in mind as a spiritual persecution. Antiochus’s “persecution” galvanized everlasting opposition to his rule.

Scholarly debate about Antiochus’s actions and the following revolt exposes probably the most enduring dilemma of any counterinsurgency effort, together with U.S. actions since 9/11. The books of 1 and a couple of Maccabees replicate a spread of perceptions of Antiochus and of conflicts in Jerusalem, which had been inside to the native inhabitants on the time. That number of native views continues to drive disagreement at the moment. Some, like Robert Doran, argue that the Seleucid “persecution” of Jerusalem got here solely in response to a neighborhood revolt, whereas the traditional sources current the revolt as a response to the persecution. Others, similar to Sylvie Honigman, assume the problems weren’t non secular, however that the revolt reacted to modifications in Seleucid tax coverage. Just like the Seleucids, historians have struggled to unravel the online of native perceptions with a purpose to perceive what actually occurred and why. U.S. forces had the identical downside. We might by no means pierce the cloud of kinship alliances and historical rivalries to grasp the “actual” drivers of battle or predict the consequences of our actions.

Heliodorus: The Failure of Native Allies

Seleucid strikes in Judaea had been typical of the uncertainty that plagues any try and dominate a neighborhood inhabitants. In 2 Maccabees, bother in Jerusalem begins as a rivalry among the many ruling events. The main protagonist is the excessive priest, Onias III, a pious man struggling to stave off challengers, who search to unseat him by manipulating the imperial energy. First comes a tribal opponent: “Simon, of the tribe of Balgea, who had been made captain of the temple had a disagreement with [Onias III] concerning the administration of the town market” (2 Macc 3:4). To punish Onias, Simon informs Heliodorus, the Seleucid governor of Coele-Syria, of the nice wealth deposited within the Jerusalem Temple.

Heliodorus then enacts a double miscalculation when he comes accumulating elevated taxes from the Temple revenues. He thinks, presumably, that accumulating taxes is a bonus to him, when actually, it’s laying the groundwork of insurrection. And he presumably sees himself because the agent of the Seleucid regime, when he has truly been mobilized as Simon’s instrument in a neighborhood battle. This was a typical downside in Afghanistan. Though it was important to have native allies, we might hardly ever make sure of the true motivations of our so-called companions. The village elder pleading appreciation for America, just like the volunteer proclaiming his readiness to combat extremists, was well-tutored within the duplicities of tribal politics. And native relationships are serpentine. Understanding that ulterior motives abound doesn’t imply you may type by way of them. One friendship made can create three unknown enemies.

The Heliodorus incident sewed a good deeper unexpected resentment. Onias opposed the brand new taxes by mobilizing the inhabitants in opposition to him. The Jerusalem inhabitants interpreted Heliodorus’s actions as a spiritual incursion: “There was no little misery all through the entire metropolis . . . as a result of the holy place was about to be introduced into dishonor. Girls girded with sackcloth below their breasts thronged the streets. . . . Holding up their palms to heaven all of them made supplication” (2 Macc. 3:15-18). The scene is reminiscent of riots that broke out in Kabul, in February 2012, after personnel at Bagram Air Area disposed of copies of the Quran that had been utilized by detainees. Their mistake brought on huge riots, which noticed two U.S. personnel killed.

Onias III’s position within the historical riot can be instructive for the trendy one. He stirred up fashionable opposition to Heliodorus’s new taxes by a dramatic present of his deep non secular concern for the temple: “To see the looks of the excessive priest was to be wounded in coronary heart, for his face . . . disclosed the anguish of his soul” (2 Macc. 3:16). Onias understood the non secular foundation of his energy and mobilized it. The native inhabitants, primarily unaware of Simon and Onias’s rivalry, was greater than prepared to grasp the foreigner, Heliodorus, as attacking their traditions. We’d surmise that non secular leaders in Kabul had been equally instrumental in stirring up the riots, which shored up their energy relative to the U.S. and Taliban. President Obama needed to make a public apology to calm the inhabitants.

Jason: The Failure of Reforms

Misperception and miscalculation dogged Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ persevering with makes an attempt to handle Jerusalem. The plot thickens when Jason, Onias’s personal brother, agrees to pay the upper taxes in change for Antiochus appointing him as excessive priest rather than his personal brother. In return, in response to Robert Doran, Jason requested “that Jerusalem’s standing be upgraded to that of a polis. Elite Jews in Jerusalem, with Jason as their chief, needed to have nearer ties with the Seleucid authorities.” This led to the institution of Greek establishments and the conferral of an official standing upon no less than a phase of the Jerusalem inhabitants (1 Macc. 1:30-54; 2 Macc. 4:11-30).

As if following the US Army and Marines Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, Antiochus IV Epiphanes would have been on good strategic footing, insofar as he had aligned himself with a distinguished member of a well-established dynasty acknowledged as authentic by the inhabitants. Counterinsurgency technique emphasizes that the counterinsurgent must work “by, with, and thru” native allies. The goal is to place the native inhabitants on the head of modifications per the counterinsurgent’s aims. However the option to depose Onias III in favor of Jason went completely counter to Antiochus’s pursuits. The error, as Doran warned years ago, was that Antiochus “listened to members of the group who ha[d] already assimilated themselves to the bigger energy.”

Jason’s pro-Seleucid reforms had been criticized broadly, although for various causes. 2 Maccabees relates that “Jason obtained the priesthood by corruption” and censures him for “setting apart the present humane royal concessions to the Judaeans.” He enacted “such an excessive of Hellenization . . . and allophylism” that even the monks turned lax (2 Macc. 4:7-18). Although essential, the account nonetheless preserves a sensible criticism of political and cultural offenses ensuing from native rivalries. In contrast, 1 Maccabees tells a simplified story of non secular oppression: “In these days out of Israel got here sons, transgressors of the legislation, and persuaded many, saying, Allow us to go and make a covenant with the nations round us.” This latter account makes the Hellenizing occasion merely the agent of non secular oppression. Even working by way of a distinguished native ally, Antiochus was alienating an much more vehement opposition.  

It takes solely just a little creativeness to see the newly-established Greek polis of Jerusalem as sharing all the issues of the central authorities in Kabul. It was an city middle guided by elites promising the regional hegemon that their coverage represented greater than the agenda of a faction. However Antiochus’s obvious success with Jason in Jerusalem was solely a maneuver by one native powerbroker in a battle with a tribal rival. And so it went: three years after Jason took workplace, Menelaus, one in every of Jason’s deputies, outbid him for the priesthood, in the identical approach that Jason had outbid Onias III (2 Macc. 4:23-29). (Menelaus was notably “the brother of the aforementioned Simon,” whose betrayal of Onias prompted the Heliodorus incident.)

Studying the teachings of the Maccabees would have required a technique much less optimistic, much less democratic than the USA and its allies might settle for.

When the now-deposed Jason acquired unhealthy intelligence reporting that Antiochus had died in battle, Jason moved in opposition to Menelaus to retake Jerusalem (2 Maccabees 5:5-7). Jason started “relentlessly slaughtering” his opponents (2 Macc. 5:6). It’s maybe probably the most telling second of the whole drama. The entire façade of Hellenizing loyalty collapsed into factional infighting on the first signal of Seleucid weak spot.

Though the Maccabean story doesn’t finish right here, Jason’s motion casts a sure mild on the rapid collapse of the Kabul authorities amid defections to the Taliban. One native Kandahar police officer commented that they had been “drowning in corruption” to elucidate the federal government’s weak spot. What he known as “corruption” merely expressed the truth that the “Afghan authorities” was an alliance of rivals at all times in competitors with one another. Therefore, the U.S. departure imposed a collective “prisoners dilemma” on its personal coalition of tribal leaders and native warlords. Jason’s misinformed actions revealed what he, Menelaus, and Onias III had by no means forgotten: native actors are at all times jockeying for superiority over each other, in the beginning. Likely, Jerusalem blamed Antiochus and his emissaries for the violence.

Antiochus: Mobilizing the Opposition

From this level ahead, the story of Seleucid collapse in Judaea unfolds like a counterinsurgency train-wreck in sluggish movement. The story reenacts acquainted moments from the Afghanistan Struggle. First comes the Seleucids’ early domination. Uninterested in duplicity from the native elites, Antiochus determined to impose by pressure the Hellenistic reforms that Jason and Menelaus had promoted. Unaware of native elements, he interprets the violence in Jerusalem as a basic revolt. He assaults Jerusalem, seizes the unpaid revenues, and leaves his personal emissaries in charge of the town (2 Macc. 5:11-6:1). They consecrate the temple in Jerusalem to Zeus Olympos and set up a garrison within the central excessive place of the town. If the traditional sources are to be believed, Antiochus then made a kingdom-wide plea for unity round a coverage of Hellenization (1 Macc. 1:41-44).

His plan backfired. By selling Greek tradition as a supply of unity, Antiochus galvanized an opposition that had been, no less than because the Heliodorus affair, able to view his regime as a overseas non secular persecutor. Regardless of early victories, the Seleucid regime shortly misplaced its capability to barter with native factions impressed by non secular zeal (1 Macc. 2:14-29). A number one determine, Mattathias, refuses a suggestion to develop into a Seleucid ally. He declares reasonably that even “if all of the nations obey [the king] . . . in order to apostasize . . . I and my sons and my brothers will stroll within the covenant of our fathers” (1 Macc. 2:19-21).

A guerilla battle ensues. Mattathias and his sons collect followers and retreat to the hill nation (1 Macc. 2:27, 31). They later “secretly entered the villages and summoned their kindred and enlisted those that had continued within the Judean religion . . . about 6,000” (2 Macc. 8:1-3). They even skilled to the sound of “Eleazaros, appointed to learn aloud from the holy e book,” like Talibs at a madrassa (2 Macc. 8:23). This pressure of zealots conducts evening assaults on susceptible villages and at strategic positions. Even historical media helped their efforts: “the rumor of [their] valor unfold in every single place” (2 Macc. 8:6).

From that time, all of the equipment of superior energy served truly to strengthen fashionable opposition. The garrison itself turned a public image of the guerrillas’ personal trigger: “They stationed a sinful nation there, lawless males, and so they turned robust in it. They usually saved [a great stockpile of weapons] and have become a fantastic risk” we’re informed (1 Macc. 1:33-36). The Seleucid garrison might management the town and the day, however it couldn’t quell the Maccabees’ affect among the many inhabitants at evening. The Maccabees would go on to revive the altar in Jerusalem and maintain their grip on energy till dynamics in geopolitics allowed them to ascertain an unbiased Jewish kingdom.


Maybe Antiochus thought the Jerusalem inhabitants would admire him for bringing safety to the town after Jason’s bloodbath. Definitely, that was the hope and idea of coalition efforts in Afghanistan—“fostering . . . efficient governance . . . that may present safety” with a purpose to achieve native assist. In actuality, Antiochus’s coverage of cultural unification remodeled a battle amongst native rivals right into a combat between the Seleucids and the inhabitants. Greek establishments turned an object of scorn because the Maccabees known as for assist in protection of historical customs and custom. Their name reveals maybe the deepest miscalculation. Antiochus’s determination to remodel native peoples into “one kingdom” made him the true rebel in opposition to a extra historical and native order, which the Maccabees claimed to defend.

Counterinsurgency technique likewise imagined the Kabul authorities as defending an order that the Taliban had been aiming to overthrow. The truth was simply the other. The Taliban might plausibly declare to characterize a conventional order that, nonetheless brutal or backward, loved deep roots in native customized, language, and historical past. Forged within the position of counterinsurgent, U.S. forces had been at all times combating another facet’s battle.  

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